Weybridge Beekeepers Division, Summer Meeting 23rd April – Preparing for a new season

Firstly, a big thank you to Michael Main for hosting this event in his lovely garden, and for allowing us to disturb his bees, hopefully they have recovered from being manipulated backward and forward simply for our amusement and benefit. Also, well done to Michael, who is obviously a bit of a Grand Master Tetrus Ninja, for his parking attendant prowess; who knew he could get 7 cars and a motorbike on this drive, if the scaffolding hadn’t been there, I think it might have been 8.

The sunny warm weather helped ensure it was a good turnout, with over 30 attendees ensuring that there were people with experience ranging from beginner to expert, so if there were to be lots of interesting questions, there would hopefully be as many knowledgeable answers.

As with all carefully planned events, the schedule was immediately thrown into disarray as a call had been received asking for a swarm to be collected, so as an added bonus to the afternoon’s planned events David Parker and six interested volunteers set off immediately to collect the swarm.

While this was happening the two master classes got underway, one on looking for EFB and AFB during inspections, and the other looking at swarm control using the Pagden Method.

Geoff and Alan demonstrated a hive inspection with a view to looking for EFB, European Foul Brood and American Foul Brood (AFB). For the beginners watching it was an excellent opportunity to see experienced beekeepers handle bees and carry out an inspection. They were shown brood in all stages, worker versus drone brood, pollen, stores, queen cups or worse queen cells, and of course identifying and looking after the queen. A pretty comprehensive A to Z of hive inspections. Predictably, and happily, no EFB or AFB was identified, but for beginners who may not have bees, this was an extremely valuable and interesting experience.

Meantime, Michael was demonstrating a swarm control technique called the Pagden Method. This method involves the complete separation of the queen and flying bees in a hive on the original site, from the eggs, brood, nurse bees and queen cells in a second hive newly set up beside the original one. The situation at the end of the manipulation would be two hives both eventually with laying queens, and you could either use these to increase your number of colonies or remove the old queen and reunite all of the bees to maintain a

Michael made this look easy, mainly because he could find the queen, had the necessary additional hive parts and also had the room to do this. I may not be able to do this yet, because I can never find the queen and may lack hive parts and space, but should I manage to conquer these issues, I now feel I have the strong colony. knowledge to try it myself .

This also led on to a discussion about what to do with a hive with a laying worker, and a demonstration of the use of a Snelgrove Board (£24 on Ebay, £43 from Thornes, or test your carpentry skills and DIY) to move flying bees between separated colonies. With a multitude of doors front, back and sideways as well as up and down, it became obvious that a practical demonstration was far easier than trying to describe it.

With impeccable timing, just as these two sessions were drawing to a close, the swarm catchers returned and we went straight into a very unusual session about removing and hiving a wild colony.

Michael had recovered to his garden a 5ft length of a tree trunk, which came down on an island in the Thames at Sunbury, which contained a feral colony. Goodness knows how he managed to get it from the island to his garden, using only a sack barrow and his car, but let’s just say that Hollywood are interested in the movie rights.

The plan was to remove the colony and house it in a hive. With surgeon like precision, the tree trunk had been chain sawed to allow a large section of trunk to be removed leaving the comb and the bees intact. The fact that this had been accomplished so successfully, and without anybody losing a finger, means we are calling this part of the process a roaring success!

David then removed sections of comb and attached them to frames using either elastic bands or wire. He said it was important that the comb was kept the right way up, because, and I didn’t realise this, the comb is built slightly facing upward so if it was slightly facing downward, it would be ignored by the bees, and the honey would drip out. David successfully moved the comb into the Nuc box and later saw bees coming and going from it, so the queen was successfully transferred although not seen.

The last demonstration was Michael showing how to change old comb for new using the Shook Swarm technique. This is important because old comb cells may become too small to raise decent sized bees as after repeated use they contain shed larval and pupal skins, the old comb may hold disease, and also by replacing it and the brood within, you can significantly reduce your varroa count.

Michael explained that he would often give the old comb to smaller colonies to build up their numbers rather than destroy good brood. In Michael’s method of Shook Swarm he had identified the queen and moved her with a frame of brood into the new box, he also added some partially drawn comb, this was to ensure that there would be no gap in laying.

If/when we do this, we will also add a couple of frames of brood with eggs, but for a different reason. We can never find the queen, so by having comb with eggs in the hive if the queen is in some way damaged during our ‘Shooking of the Swarm’, hopefully we can get some emergency queen cells raised by those bees not too dazed, confused and upset by the process.

This demonstration ended just as the temperature began to drop, and everyone retired to the seating area for a drink and a nibble and a very pleasant chat. For me this was another extremely enjoyable afternoon in which I learned new stuff, was reminded of things I forgot I knew, and all in the company of a very pleasant group of folk.

Many thanks, David, for this comprehensive and interesting report and for the pictures you sent with it – we have used some of these and also some kindly sent in by Anne Miller and Elaine Svard (Paul’s wife). It was great to read of your enjoyment of the meeting. We are looking forward to your future reports and other David Ramsay contributions to the newsletter.

BBKA INSURANCE for the period 4th October 2021 – 3rd October 2022 Frequently Asked Questions v.4

Over the years a number of queries have arisen about the insurance cover the BBKA has arranged for its Members. The following information provided by the BBKA is designed to help Members understand the cover they have.

As with all insurance, these FAQs should be taken as indicative answers only – the final wording is that contained in the policy and the interpretation rests with the insurance company. You can find policy and confirmation of cover documents at www.bbkanews.com
Any questions not answered here should be addressed to the BBKA office at bbka@bbka.org.uk.

1. As a member of the BBKA what am I covered for on the insurance arranged by the BBKA which is included in the cost of my membership fees?
Third Party Public and Products Liability insurance from the BBKA
The Third Party Public and Products Liability insurance policy automatically covers all Honorary, Registered, Partner, Junior, UKresident (plus Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey)Individual Members and constituent associations (referred to collectively as “Members”) against any financial loss caused by a successful claim against them by a third party for injury or other loss deemed to have been caused by the Member, or their bees, whilst undertaking beekeeping activities or through the normal use of their hive products. The limit of this cover is presently £10,000,000 with each new claim carrying an excess of £500 for third party property damage claims that is payable by the Member.

2. Does this policy cover my equipment against all risks including theft?

No – unfortunately the BBKA All Risks insurance scheme has been discontinued. As a result, Aston Lard will be unable to offer renewal terms and cover will cease from your renewal date.


The All Risks insurance is was arranged with the unique buying power of the BBKA’s 25,000+ members. However, over the period of 3 years + that it ran (since 31/01/2018), less than 2% of members have bought the cover. In addition, claims have been relatively high in relation to premiums.
Aston Lark can still offer cover, on a bespoke basis, using options from a wide number of insurers. However, the minimum cost will increase to at least £140 which we anticipate to be unacceptable to the majority of beekeepers with relatively normal levels of (but nonetheless beloved) equipment.

Aston Lark would be very pleased to hear from you if you would like a Household Insurance quotation, including beekeeping equipment, please contact:

For hobby beekeepers, Aston Lark suggest you have a discussion with your household insurers with the aim of adapting your

insurance cover to include hives in the open and other insurance covers that may not automatically be catered for. If they are

unable to assist, Aston Lark has negotiated facilities that will give most of, or all the insurance cover, you may require on one of

more of their own Household Insurance policies but they can only do so by arranging all your Household cover (not just

beekeeping equipment).

Raquel.addleman@astonlark.com Daniel.hopwood@astonlark.com www.astonlark.com

0161 830 1294 0161 830 1283

3 Parsonage, Manchester, M3 2HW

3. Does this policy cover me if my hives have American or European Foul Brood?

No. Bee Diseases Insurance (BDI) provides optional insurance for the replacement of beekeeping equipment should it have to be destroyed due to an incidence of a notifiable disease, such as European or American Foul Brood. Further information about how Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd operates can be found on the BDI website www.beediseasesinsurance.co.uk
Please note, not all BBKA Associations and Branches offer BDI insurance – please check with your membership secretary.

4. I pay a small extra premium with my subscription to my local branch each year for BDI insurance. What is this for?

This is a separate premium for Bee Diseases Insurance (BDI). In the event of your bees and equipment having to be destroyed due to foul brood, then this policy will pay out a fixed amount to help you replace your equipment. This is administered totally separately by BDI. The costs of this policy are part of your main subscription to your local association.

5. I’ve heard something about an excess; am I going to be charged for notifying a claim?

The Liability policy’s £500 excess is a marketstandard feature in the UK. It exists to impose an element of responsibility on the insured person so as to minimise recklessness.
The excess is limited in scope as it only applies to allegations of property damage. Claims alleging an injury are never subject to an excess.

Additionally, the excess is not payable during the defence phase of the claim. Insurers will provide full assistance and defend against the claim as robustly as possible. The excess is only payable when the decision is taken to make a payment to the Third Party. If the claim is successfully defended, no excess is payable.
The Insurers review the level of excess regularly in conjunction with the BBKA, but this must be balanced with premium considerations, as insurers require higher premiums for lower excess levels.

6. Are all Membership categories covered for insurance automatically?

Registered, Partner, Junior and Honorary members who are UK residents (plus Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey) are covered automatically for insurance as part of their payment of membership fees. Country membership does not include insurance cover. If you are in any doubt as to whether you personally are registered with the BBKA, you should consult with your association’s Membership secretary.

7. Are members of the public who attend Taster Days or visit our apiary covered?

The public are protected by the BBKA insurance when attending a taster day or training sessions. If a member of the public was injured (or their property damaged) and felt this was due to negligence, they could sue the BBKA members supervising the event (although liability should never be admitted, in case this results in cover being invalidated). BBKA Registered, Partner, Honorary and Junior members have BBKA insurance but not Country members. Naturally, BBKA cover would only protect a member of the public if there had been a failure in duty of care by a BBKA member.


8. Is it the bees or the beekeeper that is covered?

Bees obviously cannot be sued, so it is the beekeeper that is covered.
If a claim is made against BBKA Member, John, for a loss he caused while looking after Mary’s bees during her holiday, then John is covered even though the bees aren’t his. Even if Mary isn’t a Member, as long as John is a Member he will be covered if he is named in the action.
If it becomes apparent that it was actually Mary that was responsible for the loss and she is named in the action, the policy will only protect her if she is a Member.

9. I am called by a member of the public to collect bees that have swarmed – am I covered? What happens if I charge for my services?

You are covered provided, it is part of your normal beekeeping activities. If you charge reasonable expenses to cover fuel costs then this will not affect your cover. However, if you make a business out of swarm collection this would be viewed differently. You would need normal Commercial Insurance for this business activity which is not covered by the BBKA policy.

10. Is there any restriction on working at height?

No. The Aviva policy does not have a specified restriction for working at height. Broadly speaking, you should not attempt any work for which you do not have adequate equipment, training or experience. The policy does not cover reckless acts, so if you are in doubt seek guidance from someone with the relevant experience or training, or preferably use an alternate method that would avoid you having to climb to height.

11. I sell honey and wax products at farmers’ markets and local shows and they need proof of Third Party Public Liability and Product Insurance.

The confirmation of Insurance document available for download and printing from the BBKA website is sufficient to satisfy this requirement. You will need to login with your membership number and postcode to access the file, which can be found at: www.bbkanews.com

12. I make a range of skin care products that I sell at markets and via retail outlets – am I covered for Product Liability if anyone makes a claim against me?

The BBKA policy only covers primary hive products – defined as wax, honey and propolis with no other added ingredients. Some examples of covered products are pure honey, lip balms consisting of honey and beeswax with no extra ingredients, and candles with no perfumes or colourings. Bees wax wraps are not covered.
The restriction applies because if a product with added ingredients proves to be faulty, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to prove whether it was the hive ingredient or additive at fault.

For instance, if cakes were covered, the insurance company would require lists of all products made and ingredients used by each and every member, and every product would need to comply with food hygiene and production standards. Premiums would be payable on an individual basis and therefore prohibitively high.

13. The number of my hives has grown over the years and I now supplement my income from beekeeping – am I covered?

The policy is designed for hobbyist BBKA Members, not commercial ventures or bee farmers. With 40 colonies or more you would be eligible for Membership of the Bee Farmers’ Association (BFA).
As such, cover is provided up to a limit of 39 hives per person. If you tend 40 or more hives by yourself you should apply for membership of the BFA.

If you share responsibility for the hives with another member, then the hives can be treated as shared between you for insurance purposes. Cover will not be invalidated as long as there are not more than 39 hives per person.

Additionally, insurers view any operation with any direct employees as a commercial venture, which cannot be covered by the policy.

14. I joined my local association in January, when did my insurance cover start?

As a Registered, Partner or Junior Member, your cover started the day you paid your local association subscription and received a receipt. However, if a claim arose between the time of your payment and your registration with the BBKA by your association, you would need to provide definitive proof that payment was made before the incident arose for a claim to be accepted.


15. I am a new direct UK Individual Member of the BBKA; when does my insurance cover begin?

The insurance cover for a new individual Member of the BBKA begins six weeks after he/she is accepted for Membership. When you renew your Membership, cover will start from the date you pay you renewal subscription to the BBKA.

16. As Membership Secretary I update members details on the members register. If some of the names on the list have lapsed or are awaiting renewal (ie have not paid me at the time) are they still covered?

Technically they are in default and would not be covered. However, if a claim arose, each case would be investigated and resolved on an individual basis. In order to avoid this potential exposure, it is imperative that all associations ensure that their Members understand this exposure and are encouraged to pay all dues promptly.

FAQs for Branch & Association Officers

17. I am a Treasurer of my local branch, am I covered for any claims against me as a branch official as opposed to in my beekeeping activities?

The BBKA policy includes what is commonly referred to as ‘Trustees Liability’ cover for all officials of the BBKA, Associations and branches affiliated to the BBKA. It does not matter whether your organisation is a charity or not for this cover. The amount covered is £2,000,000, with no applicable excess.
In order to be covered by the BBKA ‘Trustees Liability’ insurance, Association and branch officials must be a member of the BBKA (registered, partner, country or honorary). If a member serves as an officer for more than one Association or branch, he/she only needs to be a BBKA member of one of them.

18. Are Area Associations and branches covered for Public Liability Insurance if we want to hire a hall for a beekeeping meeting/training or attend a public event such as a local show?

Yes, up to a limit of £10 million. Associations that are registered charities or CIOs, although legal entities in their own right, are still covered.

19. If non-members were to break into a teaching apiary and be seriously injured by the bees is the association covered for any claim?

Yes, there would be full cover. If they put a claim in against the BBKA Local Association/Individual member/BBKA itself, insurers would either:-

  1. 1)  Defend you if there had been no breach of a duty of care, or:-
  2. 2)  If there had, then negotiate compensation on your behalf and pay it out, along with any legal costs.

It would be just the same for a non-teaching apiary.

Four times as much honey for twice the number of bees per colony

The Farrar rule (1931), known by many beekeepers, states that the more the population increases in the hive, the greater is the individual production of each bee. This amounts to saying that it increases in productivity and is known as a principle of synergy. This is because as the number of bees in a hive increases, the proportion of foragers also increases, according to the following table (Reid, 1980):

Total workers10.00020.00030.00040.00050.00060.000
Total foragers2.0005.00010.00020.00030.00039.000
Percentage of foragers20 %25 %30 %50 %60 %65 %
Population weight1 kg2 kg3 kg4 kg5 kg6 kg
Honey yield1 kg4 kg9 kg16 kg25 kg36 kg

We can also make a mathematical calculation by which, knowing the population of bees in a hive, the production of this hive can be estimated approximately. We say that the production capacity is equal to the square of the weight of the population.
If a full brood chamber has 10,000 bees and we know that 10,000 bees weigh about 1 kg, a hive that has 50,000 bees will be able to produce 5 squared, which means 25 kg of honey.

Editor’s comments:

  • Are Farrar and his rule known to most beekeepers (as stated above)?
  • Are the honey amounts listed: total produced by the colony, total harvested by the beekeeper, or what?
  • It would be very interesting to do some measurements on some real hives in the field. I suspect this is impossible due to the many variables and unknowns
  • More on this can be found on https://second.wiki/wiki/regla_de_farrar
  • The line below the table in the above link does not seem to make sense as it implies a hive of 1000 bees makes 1kg of honey

Anyway, it is certainly a bit of very new information to me. Perhaps someone would like to explore it further, or send their own knowledge if heard about elsewhere.
Thanks to David Parker for bringing this topic to our attention. The original article was in Spanish and I suspect that some of the ambiguities are in the translation.